Google Unveils Digital Treasure Trove, Mali Magic
By Dipo Olowookere
A digital treasure trove called Mali Magic aimed to preserve and showcase the historic and contemporary art and culture of Mali has been launched by Google.
With the launch of Mali Magic, people from all over the world can view an array of manuscripts, music, art and heritage sites including over 40 000+ digitised endangered manuscripts many of which were smuggled to safety during political unrest in the country.
It also contains more than 50 exhibits which include the first online, interactive tours of some of Mali’s most significant historic sites, at-risk mausoleums and mosques including the Sidi Yahiya and Djinguereber Mosques and the Tomb of Askia, all created using Street View.
The Mali Magic project contains over 40,000 assets digitised manuscript pages, more than 50 exhibits on Mali heritage (manuscripts, music, monuments & contemporary art), the first-ever Street View capture in Mali of 9 heritage sites, a 3D model and annotated tour of Djenne Mosque, as well as one music album, Maliba, by Fatoumata Diawara.
Since 2015, Google Arts & Culture has been working with local and international organisations to digitise, curate and share Mali’s incredible stories and rich heritage.
Together with its local partners, Google Arts & Culture identified four key pillars of Malian culture; manuscripts, music, monuments and modern art – and worked closely with local communities and experts to digitally document the country’s rich art, architecture, scholarship and musical tradition, and to share stories of its resilience in the face of political struggles with the world.
Google Arts & Culture also worked with artist and musician DJ Spooky (Paul Miller) to create short videos to explore the evolution of storytelling, from West Africa to the American blues.
An original album, Maliba, by Malian singer-songwriter Fatoumata Diawara, produced in Mali and written about the country’s cultural legacy, was created exclusively for the project. The collection also contains a wealth of videos and imagery which capture Mali’s contemporary art scene and profile some of its artists.
“The Malian city of Timbuktu gave birth to an abundance of learning in the fields of human rights, morality, politics, astronomy and literature captured in thousands of manuscripts.
“When this ancient knowledge was threatened by extremist groups in 2012, local communities raced against time to preserve these treasures. This legacy is now available for people across the world to explore,” the Program Manager and Digital Archaeologist for Google Arts & Culture, Chance Coughenour, stated.
Dr Abdel Kader Haidara, the ‘badass librarian’ known for smuggling the manuscripts out of Timbuktu, said, “[They] are more than important historical documents.
“Central to the heritage of the West African nation of Mali, they represent the long legacy of written knowledge and academic excellence in Africa, and hold potential to inspire global learning from the actions of the past in confronting modern-day issues.”